Goodman Gallery Cape Town is pleased to present Mogalakwena, a solo exhibition of works by Moshekwa Langa first seen at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2012. Moshekwa Langa is an artist and visual anthropologist who works with installation, drawing, video and sculpture.
Langa grew up in Bakenberg, a remote town in Limpopo, and left in 1989 to attend the Waldorf School near Pretoria. As a child he was particularly interested in visual expression, recording and documenting his daily experiences. Initially working in drawing and text, he later expanded into sculptures made with corrugated iron and cement bags, and began experimenting with various other media. He moved to Johannesburg where he worked as a contributing producer for the SABC, and in 1997 left to attend the prestigious Rijksakademie in the Netherlands.
Drawing has been an extended practice for Langa, incorporating elements of graffiti, thread, yarn and other materials. After studying and living in Amsterdam for several years he returned to South Africa – to spend time with his family, but also to confront certain aspects of his youth and the unfamiliar state of his hometown. During that time three dramatic incidents occurred that led him to stay in South Africa. The works on show are a series of indirect responses to these traumatic events, the last of which was the passing of his grandmother, Mrs Elizabeth Ramokone Konyana Langa, to whom the exhibition is dedicated.
Langa cites daily life, routine, boredom, indifference and passion among his influences and inspirations. He cultivates relationships with various people during his travels around the country, but he seeks solitude periodically to examine and interrogate his experiences. His work documents the rituals of sangomas, grieving, gossip and love. He makes maps of his encounters, using slogans and poetic epigrams to bring together scraps and residues of history.
Langa’s work has been included in several major exhibitions, including the traveling shows The Short Century and Africa Remix, the 50th and 53rd Venice Biennales in 2003 and 2009, and the Sao Paulo Biennale in 2010. His work is held in collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, and the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunstin in Antwerp.
Moshekwa Langa is based in Johannesburg and Amsterdam. This is his fourth exhibition with Goodman Gallery.
i think i learnt how to read and write before my grandmother, so when she eventually learnt to do so, i was already in what was then sub B. however i learnt as a child from her how to describe the world around me, and how to make sense of it. although bakenberg had no street names in the conventional sense, it did not mean that there were no names; there was and is another system to get around that, well-known probably all over the world, of using landmarks and associations to describe the wheres and how-to-get-theres.
somehow making maps, or killing maps started with making sense of conventional map-reading and aligning that with a system that was known to me. since there was no church street in bakenberg as such, it was about associating places with people, with families, schools, shops, naturally occurring objects to navigate the landscape that i was getting to know.
i think at first i was trying to make sense of where i was in the world, but the fact that bakenberg – my whole world at that point – was not reflected in history and geography books at the time distressed me, so in a way i collaged an alternate or even other reality of that place. the co-ordinates of bakenberg could be found, the place could be pointed out, but it was not inscribed on the map. the idea that it was a ’gat in die grond ’ did not sit well with me.
as i moved through more and more places, sometimes passing through, sometime settling for a while, i used this familiar associative way to map these areas i traversed, but somehow in description they are quite dreamy, or surreal, or non-existent – except that they do exist. so the works i am presenting are gathered from various elements that describe a place or places that were important, striking, startling or that had some effect on me. there are images which i like, which are evocative, or which near-enough make a parallel description of what i would like to record. the drawings and collages for me function like diaries and time keepers, so even using or implicating vinyl grooves, strings of thread, branches, wools, i think give a sense of timekeeping.
i am interested in the collision of some traditional rites of passage with the modern ways of doing things, and since i am not a full-time participant in all things, i sometimes record them, with a view to keeping documents of things i might have heard about before or taken part in at some stage, and which in some cases might be foreign to my experience, but which are important to go through. so i am also questioning myself about the relationships that i might have with such rituals – like mourning, different celebrations, childhood, schooling, childbirth, religion, socialising in open spaces , re-socialization, language, nuance. things that i might have previously taken for granted but which now loom large in my life because i might not have anticipated how different it is to engage in practice than concept.
i am interested in drawing, in painting, staging, writing, recording, really making an index of the things i come across that are of value to me. i think i am very often taking notes, so in a way i have a very episodic way of doing things, maybe not so much making meaning, but putting things together in a way that might do so.
i was afraid of anthills as a child because i could not understand what they were. they were frightening to me, but by working with their form and all they imply, perhaps i am coming closer to being comfortable with them. it is not as if i am writing a novel, or just creating beautiful or very ugly things. i am not so sure i am interested in pointed storytelling although i do like to highlight certain things.
on the whole the exhibition shows drawing in a very extended way, not just marks on surface, but tension lines across swathes of space, and it is important to keep records i think because sometimes they help to make sense of the world. but then again what is real, what is imagined and what is wishful is very interesting for me. things have bases and basis in reality but for me it is interesting to work in that liminal space between losing consciousness of the real and falling into a fantastical wakefulness, of making sense of what is around me, and what i imagine to be around me and what i hope to be around me and what i wish to be away from me.
i think writing about what i do and actually doing it are very distinct things: i make pictures and images, but i use abstract signs in the form of words to describe what can mainly be experienced optically. that keeps me busy.
i made a presentation of works in johannesburg in tribute to my friends and members of my family who have died, but what has been assembled here is for me an extension of the various ways that i keep time of things important and interesting to me. i make things, and here i have presented them in a variety of manners.
mogalakwena is the name of a river. i was born near there. i think that since i imagine this to be a connection to where i came from and a recording of where i am, it is an ideal title for this show: different works made at different times, making sense in one place. the imaginary ambulatory toytown made of lamps, records, cones, wool, thread, the collage with anthills, the books wrapped in damp gauze, records that are sealed, making, remaking, reusing for different purposes, the maps with names of actual, imaginary, fictional and historical people are all going some way in giving a slice of time, geological, emotional, abstract; and very real as well.